spruce flats falls in the great smoky mountains
April 27, 2022

With over 850 miles of hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains, you’ll find a ton of places to explore, and these are just the trails on the official park map! Of course, there are some unofficial trails that aren’t documented on the park map, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hike them! Check out these 4 secret hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains you’ll want to explore:

1. Whiteoak Sink

schoolhouse gap trail

Whiteoak Sink is a pretty unique area in the Smokies with several interesting spots along this undiscovered trail. Hikers will start out on Schoolhouse Gap Trail, and about 1 mile into the trail, you’ll see a split in the trail with Turkeypen Ridge Trail. Right behind the signs at this junction, there is an unmarked trail on the left that will take you to the Whiteoak Sinks area. After another mile or so, there’s another fork in the trail. If you go right at this fork, you will find Rainbow Cave Falls, a 40-foot-tall waterfall that runs over rocks and into a cave! If you go left at the fork, you will come up on Blowhole Cave. Although you can’t enter the cave, seeing the exterior is pretty cool. It’s also home to an endangered bat species known as Indian bats.

2. Spruce Flats Falls

A secret hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains that’s frequented fairly often and is easy to follow is the trail leading to Spruce Flats Falls. This trail is also not on the official Great Smoky Mountains National Park map, but enough people travel it that the path is well worn. Arguably, Spruce Flats Falls is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the entire park. You’ll start out on Lumber Ridge Trailhead, and about 20 yards into the trail, there is a junction, and you should take a right. At the next fork in the trail, take a left, and the trail will start to descend. Then Spruce Flats Falls will come into view!

3. Courthouse Rock Trail

courthouse rock

Courthouse Rock Trail is a hidden trail that isn’t on the official map, and it is recommended for experienced hikers. To get to the trailhead, you should use exact GPS coordinates because they will take you where you need to go. The trailhead is right across the road from the small parking area these coordinates take you to. There are several cairns, or stacked rocks, that mark the correct path to take along the hike. Along the trail, you’ll see old remains of homesteads and a man made cave used as a refrigeration system. If you break off the main path, you’ll find Road Turn Branch Falls, a small waterfall. As you keep hiking, you can reach Courthouse Rock and Quilliams Cave and Falls.

4. Gregory Cave

We bet you didn’t know there is a cave hidden along a hiking trail in Cades Cove! This secret trail is pretty simple to find. You’ll make your way along the Cades Cove Loop until you pass the entrance to Sparks Lane near John Oliver Cabin. After you park, you’ll walk along the road until you see a gated dirt road on the right. You’ll hike up this road until you pass two picnic tables on the right. Then you will spot the cave! The entrance is blocked off with metal bars, but you can see some of the cave, including pick marks on the walls, which are most likely from miners in the early 1800s.

Now you know about some of the secret hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains! You also won’t want to miss out on the hidden gems along these trails too. While we know you love secret spots, have you visited the most popular places in the park? Learn more about the most popular places in the Smoky Mountains!